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Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970
“To assure safe and healthful working conditions for
working men and women; by authorizing enforcement
of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting
and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure
safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for
research, information, education, and training in the field
of occupational safety and health...”

This publication provides a general overview of worker rights
under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act).
This publication does not alter or determine compliance
responsibilities which are set forth in OSHA standards and the
OSH Act. Moreover, because interpretations and enforcement
policy may change over time, for additional guidance on OSHA
compliance requirements the reader should consult current
administrative interpretations and decisions by the Occupational
Safety and Health Review Commission and the courts.
Material contained in this publication is in the public domain
and may be reproduced, fully or partially, without permission.
Source credit is requested but not required.
This information will be made available to sensory-impaired
individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 693-1999;
teletypewriter (TTY) number: 1-877-889-5627.

Guidelines for Preventing
Workplace Violence
for Healthcare and Social
Service Workers
U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
OSHA 3148-04R 2015

This guidance document is advisory in nature and informational
in content. It is not a standard or regulation, and it neither creates
new legal obligations nor alters existing obligations created by the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards
or the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act or Act).
Pursuant to the OSH Act, employers must comply with safety and
health standards and regulations issued and enforced either by
OSHA or by an OSHA-approved state plan. In addition, the Act’s
General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), requires employers to provide
their workers with a workplace free from recognized hazards that
are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm. In
addition, Section 11(c)(1) of the Act provides that “No person shall
discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee
because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted or
caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this
Act or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding or
because of the exercise by such employee on behalf of himself or
others of any right afforded by this Act.” Reprisal or discrimination
against an employee for reporting an incident or injury related
to workplace violence, related to this guidance, to an employer
or OSHA would constitute a violation of Section 11(c) of the Act.
In addition, 29 CFR 1904.36 provides that Section 11(c) of the Act
prohibits discrimination against an employee for reporting a workrelated fatality, injury or illness.

Table of Contents
Overview of the Guidelines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Violence in the Workplace: The Impact of Workplace
Violence on Healthcare and Social Service Workers . . . . . . . . . 2
Risk Factors: Identifying and Assessing Workplace
Violence Hazards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Violence Prevention Programs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
1. Management Commitment and Worker Participation. . . . . 6
2. Worksite Analysis and Hazard Identification . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
3. Hazard Prevention and Control. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
4. Safety and Health Training. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
5. Recordkeeping and Program Evaluation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Workplace Violence Program Checklists. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Bibliography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
OSHA Assistance, Services and Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
OSHA Regional Offices. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
How to Contact OSHA. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53

Overview of the Guidelines
Healthcare and social service workers face significant risks of
job-related violence and it is OSHA’s mission to help employers
address these serious hazards. This publication updates
OSHA’s 1996 and 2004 voluntary guidelines for preventing
workplace violence for healthcare and social service workers.
OSHA’s violence prevention guidelines are based on industry
best practices and feedback from stakeholders, and provide
recommendations for developing policies and procedures to
eliminate or reduce workplace violence in a range of healthcare
and social service settings.
These guidelines reflect the variations that exist in different
settings and incorporate the latest and most effective ways to
reduce the risk of violence in the workplace. Workplace setting
determines not only the types of hazards that exist, but also the
measures that will be available and appropriate to reduce or
eliminate workplace violence hazards.
For the purpose of these guidelines, we have identified five
different settings:
■■

Hospital settings represent large institutional medical facilities;

■■

Residential Treatment settings include institutional facilities
such as nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities;

■■

Non-residential Treatment/Service settings include small
neighborhood clinics and mental health centers;

■■

Community Care settings include community-based
residential facilities and group homes; and

■■

Field work settings include home healthcare workers or
social workers who make home visits.

Indeed, these guidelines are intended to cover a broad spectrum
of workers, including those in: psychiatric facilities, hospital
emergency departments, community mental health clinics, drug
abuse treatment centers, pharmacies, community-care centers,
and long-term care facilities. Healthcare and social service
workers covered by these guidelines include: registered nurses,
nurses’ aides, therapists, technicians, home healthcare workers,
Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
1

social workers, emergency medical care personnel, physicians,
pharmacists, physicians’ assistants, nurse practitioners, and
other support staff who come in contact with clients with known
histories of violence. Employers should use these guidelines to
develop appropriate workplace violence prevention programs,
engaging workers to ensure their perspective is recognized and
their needs are incorporated into the program.

Violence in the Workplace: The Impact
of Workplace Violence on Healthcare
and Social Service Workers
Healthcare and social service workers face a significant risk of
job-related violence. The National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines workplace violence as
“violent acts (including physical assaults and threats of
assaults) directed toward persons at work or on duty.”1
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 27 out of
the 100 fatalities in healthcare and social service settings that
occurred in 2013 were due to assaults and violent acts.
While media attention tends to focus on reports of workplace
homicides, the vast majority of workplace violence incidents
result in non-fatal, yet serious injuries. Statistics based on
the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and National Crime
Victimization Survey (NCVS)2 data both reveal that workplace
violence is a threat to those in the healthcare and social service
settings. BLS data show that the majority of injuries from
assaults at work that required days away from work occurred
in the healthcare and social services settings. Between 2011
and 2013, workplace assaults ranged from 23,540 and 25,630
annually, with 70 to 74% occurring in healthcare and social
service settings. For healthcare workers, assaults comprise
10-11% of workplace injuries involving days away from work, as
compared to 3% of injuries of all private sector employees.
1 

CDC/NIOSH. Violence. Occupational Hazards in Hospitals. 2002.

2 

Cited in the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice
Statistics report, Workplace Violence, 1993-2009 National Crime Victimization Survey and the
Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. March 2011. (www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/wv09.pdf)
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
2

In 2013, a large number of the assaults involving days away
from work occurred at healthcare and social assistance facilities
(ranging for 13 to 36 per 10,000 workers). By comparison, the
days away from work due to violence for the private sector as
a whole in 2013 were only approximately 3 per 10,000 full-time
workers. The workplace violence rates highlighted in BLS data
are corroborated by the NCVS, which estimates that between
1993 and 2009 healthcare workers had a 20% (6.5 per 1,000)
overall higher rate of workplace violence than all other workers
(5.1 per 1,000).3 In addition, workplace violence in the medical
occupations represented 10.2% of all workplace violence
incidents. It should also be noted that research has found that
workplace violence is underreported—suggesting that the
actual rates may be much higher.

Risk Factors: Identifying and Assessing
Workplace Violence Hazards
Healthcare and social service workers face an increased
risk of work-related assaults resulting primarily from violent
behavior of their patients, clients and/or residents. While no
specific diagnosis or type of patient predicts future violence,
epidemiological studies consistently demonstrate that inpatient
and acute psychiatric services, geriatric long term care settings,

3 

The report defined medical occupations as: physicians, nurses, technicians, and other
medical professionals.
Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
3

high volume urban emergency departments and residential and
day social services present the highest risks. Pain, devastating
prognoses, unfamiliar surroundings, mind and mood altering
medications and drugs, and disease progression can also cause
agitation and violent behaviors.
While the individual risk factors will vary, depending on the type
and location of a healthcare or social service setting, as well as
the type of organization, some of the risk factors include:

Patient, Client and Setting-Related Risk Factors
■■

Working directly with people who have a history of violence,
abuse drugs or alcohol, gang members, and relatives of
patients or clients;

■■

Transporting patients and clients;

■■

Working alone in a facility or in patients’ homes;

■■

Poor environmental design of the workplace that may
block employees’ vision or interfere with their escape from
a violent incident;

■■

Poorly lit corridors, rooms, parking lots and other areas;4

■■

Lack of means of emergency communication;

■■

Prevalence of firearms, knives and other weapons among
patients and their families and friends; and

■■

Working in neighborhoods with high crime rates.

Organizational Risk Factors
■■

Lack of facility policies and staff training for recognizing and
managing escalating hostile and assaultive behaviors from
patients, clients, visitors, or staff;

■■

Working when understaffed—especially during mealtimes
and visiting hours;

■■

High worker turnover;

■■

Inadequate security and mental health personnel on site;

4 

CDC/NIOSH. Violence. Occupational Hazards in Hospitals. 2002.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
4

■■

Long waits for patients or clients and overcrowded,
uncomfortable waiting rooms;

■■

Unrestricted movement of the public in clinics and
hospitals; and

■■

Perception that violence is tolerated and victims will not be
able to report the incident to police and/or press charges.

Violence Prevention Programs
A written program for workplace violence prevention,
incorporated into an organization’s overall safety and health
program, offers an effective approach to reduce or eliminate
the risk of violence in the workplace. The building blocks
for developing an effective workplace violence prevention
program include:
(1) Management commitment and employee participation,
(2) Worksite analysis,
(3) Hazard prevention and control,
(4) Safety and health training, and
(5) Recordkeeping and program evaluation.
A violence prevention program focuses on developing processes
and procedures appropriate for the workplace in question.
Specifically, a workplace’s violence prevention program should
have clear goals and objectives for preventing workplace
violence, be suitable for the size and complexity of operations
and be adaptable to specific situations and specific facilities or
units. The components are interdependent and require regular
reassessment and adjustment to respond to changes occurring
within an organization, such as expanding a facility or changes in
managers, clients, or procedures. And, as with any occupational
safety and health program, it should be evaluated and
reassessed on a regular basis. Those developing a workplace
violence prevention program should also check for applicable
state requirements. Several states have passed legislation and
developed requirements that address workplace violence.
Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
5

1. M 
anagement Commitment and
Worker Participation
Management commitment and worker participation are essential
elements of an effective violence prevention program. The
leadership of management in providing full support for the
development of the workplace’s program, combined with worker
involvement is critical for the success of the program. Developing
procedures to ensure that management
and employees are involved in the
Effective management
creation and operation of a workplace
leadership begins
violence prevention program can be
by recognizing that
achieved through regular meetings—
5
workplace violence
possibly as a team or committee.

is a safety and health

Effective management leadership
hazard.
begins by recognizing that workplace
violence is a safety and health hazard.
Management commitment, including the endorsement and
visible involvement of top management, provides the motivation
and resources for workers and employers to deal effectively with
workplace violence. This commitment should include:
■■

Acknowledging the value of a safe and healthful, violence-free
workplace and ensuring and exhibiting equal commitment to
the safety and health of workers and patients/clients;

■■

Allocating appropriate authority and resources to all
responsible parties. Resource needs often go beyond
financial needs to include access to information, personnel,
time, training, tools, or equipment;

■■

Assigning responsibility and authority for the various aspects
of the workplace violence prevention program to ensure that
all managers and supervisors understand their obligations;

■■

Maintaining a system of accountability for involved
managers, supervisors and workers;

■■

Supporting and implementing appropriate
recommendations from safety and health committees;

If employers take this approach, they should consult and follow the applicable provisions
of the National Labor Relations Act—29 U.S.C. 151-169.

5

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
6

■■

Establishing a comprehensive program of medical and
psychological counseling and debriefing for workers who have
experienced or witnessed assaults and other violent incidents
and ensuring that trauma-informed care is available; and

■■

Establishing policies that ensure the reporting, recording, and
monitoring of incidents and near misses and that no reprisals
are made against anyone who does so in good faith.

Additionally, management should: (1) articulate a policy and
establish goals; (2) allocate sufficient resources; and (3) uphold
program performance expectations.
Through involvement and feedback, workers can provide useful
information to employers to design, implement and evaluate
the program. In addition, workers with different functions
and at various organizational levels bring a broad range of
experience and skills to program design, implementation,
and assessment. Mental health specialists have the ability to
appropriately characterize disease characteristics but may need
training and input from threat assessment professionals. Direct
care workers, in emergency departments or mental health, may
bring very different perspectives to committee work. The range
of viewpoints and needs should be reflected in committee
composition. This involvement should include:
■■

Participation in the development, implementation,
evaluation, and modification of the workplace violence
prevention program;

■■

Participation in safety and health committees that receive
reports of violent incidents or security problems, making
facility inspections and responding to recommendations for
corrective strategies;

■■

Providing input on additions to or redesigns of facilities;

■■

Identifying the daily activities that employees believe put
them most at risk for workplace violence;

■■

Discussions and assessments to improve policies and
procedures—including complaint and suggestion programs
designed to improve safety and security;

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
7

■■

Ensuring that there is a way to report and record
incidents and near misses, and that issues are addressed
appropriately;

■■

Ensuring that there are procedures to ensure that employees
are not retaliated against for voicing concerns or reporting
injuries; and

■■

Employee training and continuing education programs.

2. Worksite Analysis and Hazard Identification
A worksite analysis involves a mutual step-by-step
assessment of the workplace to find existing or potential
hazards that may lead to incidents of workplace violence.
Cooperation between workers
and employers in identifying and
Cooperation between
assessing hazards is the foundation
workers and employers
of a successful violence prevention
program. The assessment should be
in identifying and
made by a team that includes senior
assessing hazards is
management, supervisors and
the foundation of a
workers. Although management is
successful violence
responsible for controlling hazards,
prevention program.
workers have a critical role to play
in helping to identify and assess
workplace hazards, because of their
knowledge and familiarity with facility operations, process
activities and potential threats. Depending on the size and
structure of the organization, the team may also include
representatives from operations; employee assistance;
security; occupational safety and health; legal; and human
resources staff. The assessment should include a records
review, a review of the procedures and operations for different
jobs, employee surveys and workplace security analysis.
Once the worksite analysis is complete, it should be used to
identify the types of hazard prevention and control measures
needed to reduce or eliminate the possibility of a workplace
violence incident occurring. In addition, it should assist in the
identification or development of appropriate training. The
assessment team should also determine how often and under
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
8

what circumstances worksite analyses should be conducted.
For example, the team may determine that a comprehensive
annual worksite analysis should be conducted, but require that
an investigative analysis occur after every incident or near miss.
Additionally, those conducting the worksite analysis should
periodically inspect the workplace and evaluate worker tasks in
order to identify hazards, conditions, operations and situations
that could lead to potential violence. The advice of independent
reviewers, such as safety and health professionals, law
enforcement or security specialists, and insurance safety
auditors may be solicited to strengthen programs. These
experts often provide a different perspective that serves to
improve a program.
Information is generally collected through: (1) records analysis;
(2) job hazard analysis; (3) employee surveys; and (4) patient/
client surveys.

Records analysis and tracking
Records review is important to identify patterns of assaults or
near misses that could be prevented or reduced through the
implementation of appropriate controls. Records review should
include medical, safety, specific threat assessments, workers’
compensation and insurance records. The review should also
include the OSHA Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
(OSHA Form 300) if the employer is required to maintain one.
In addition, incident/near-miss logs, a facility’s general event
or daily log and police reports should be reviewed to identify
assaults relative to particular:
■■

Departments/Units;

■■

Work areas;

■■

Job titles;

■■

Activities—such as transporting patients between units or
facilities, patient intake; and

■■

Time of day.

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
9

Possible Findings from Records Review:

Departments/
Units

xx Dementia Unit
xx Adolescent
Unit

xx Waiting room
xx Nurses’
station
xx Hallway
xx Treatment
rooms

xx Therapy room
xx Patient’s
room
xx Dining area
xx Van/Car
transport

xx Waiting area
xx Therapy room

xx Kitchen
xx Car

xx Kitchen
xx Car
xx Bedroom

xx Security
guard
xx Nurse
xx Therapist
xx Doctor
xx Receptionist
xx Health aide
xx Technician

xx Social worker
xx Therapist
xx Nurse
xx Health aide
xx Security
guard
xx Driver
xx Technician

xx Social worker
xx Behavioral
health
specialist
xx Nurse
xx Technician

xx Social worker
xx Therapist
xx Health aide

xx Social worker
xx Health aide
xx Child Support
services
xx Emergency
medical
personnel

xx Patient intake
xx Transferring
patients from
one floor to
another
xx Meal time
xx Bathing
xx Changing of
staff
xx Scanning for
weapons

xx Conducting
therapy
xx Transitioning
patients from
one area to
another
xx Driving
patients
xx Feeding
patient

xx Therapy room
xx Client intake

xx Conducting
therapy
xx Bathing/
changing/
feeding client
xx Administering
meds
xx Driving
patient

xx Bathing/
changing/
feeding client
xx Administering
meds
xx Driving
patient
xx Interacting
with clients’
families

xx After 10 PM
xx Meal times

xx Late
afternoon and
evening

xx No pattern

xx Entry or exit

xx Entry or exit
xx Meal times

Time of
day

xx Emergency
Department
xx Psychiatric
Unit
xx Geriatric Unit

Work areas

Community
Care

Job titles

Residential
Treatment

Field Workers
(Home
Healthcare and
Social Service)

Activities

Hospital

Nonresidential
Treatment/
Service

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
1 0

Job Hazard Analysis
A job hazard analysis is an assessment that focuses on job
tasks to identify hazards. Through review of procedures and
operations connected to specific tasks or positions to identify
if they contribute to hazards related to workplace violence
and/or can be modified to reduce the likelihood of violence
occurring, it examines the relationship between the employee,
the task, tools, and the work environment. Worker participation
is an essential component of the analysis. As noted in OSHA’s
publication on job hazard analyses,6 priority should be given to
specific types of job. For example, priority should be given to:
■■

Jobs with high assault rates due to workplace violence;

■■

Jobs that are new to an operation or have undergone
procedural changes that may increase the potential for
workplace violence; and

■■

Jobs that require written instructions, such as procedures
for administering medicine, and steps required for
transferring patients.

After an incident or near miss, the analysis should focus on:
■■

Analyzing those positions that were affected;

■■

Identifying if existing procedures and operations were
followed and if not, why not (in some instances, not following
procedures could result in more effective protections);

■■

Identifying if staff were adequately qualified and/or trained
for the tasks required; and

■■

Developing, if necessary, new procedures and operations to
improve staff safety and security.

Employee surveys
Employee questionnaires or surveys are effective ways for
employers to identify potential hazards that may lead to
violent incidents, identify the types of problems workers face
in their daily activities, and assess the effects of changes in
6

OSHA 3071-2002 (Revised). Job Hazard Analysis.
Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
1 1

work processes. Detailed baseline screening surveys can help
pinpoint tasks that put workers at risk. Periodic surveys—
conducted at least annually or whenever operations change or
incidents of workplace violence occur—help identify new or
previously unnoticed risk factors and deficiencies or failures in
work practices. The periodic review process should also include
feedback and follow-up. The following are sample questions:
■■

What daily activities, if any, expose you to the greatest risk
of violence?

■■

What, if any, work activities make you feel unprepared to
respond to a violent action?

■■

Can you recommend any changes or additions to the
workplace violence prevention training you received?

■■

Can you describe how a change in a patient’s daily routine
affected the precautions you take to address the potential for
workplace violence?

Client/Patient Surveys
Clients and patients may also have valuable feedback that may
enable those being served by the facility to provide useful
information to design, implement, and evaluate the program.
Clients and patients may be able to participate in identifying
triggers to violence, daily activities that may lead to violence,
and effective responses.

3. Hazard Prevention and Control
After the systematic worksite analysis is complete, the
employer should take the appropriate steps to prevent or
control the hazards that were identified. To do this, the
employer should: (1) identify and evaluate control options for
workplace hazards; (2) select effective and feasible controls
to eliminate or reduce hazards; (3) implement these controls
in the workplace; (4) follow up to confirm that these controls
are being used and maintained properly; and (5) evaluate the
effectiveness of controls and improve, expand, or update them
as needed.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
1 2

In the field of industrial hygiene, these steps are generally
categorized, in order of effectiveness, as (1) substitution; (2)
engineering controls; and (3) administrative and work practice
controls. These principles, which are described in more detail
below, can also be applied to the field of workplace violence.
In addition, employers should ensure that, if an incident of
workplace violence occurs, post-incident procedures and
services are in place and/or immediately made available.

Substitution
The best way to eliminate a hazard is to eliminate it or substitute
a safer work practice. While these substitutions may be difficult
in the therapeutic healthcare environment, an example may
be transferring a client or patient to a more appropriate facility
if the client has a history of violent behavior that may not be
appropriate in a less secure therapeutic environment.

Engineering controls and workplace adaptations to
minimize risk
Engineering controls are physical changes that either remove
the hazard from the workplace or create a barrier between
the worker and the hazard. In facilities where it is appropriate,
there are several engineering control measures that can
effectively prevent or control workplace hazards. Engineering
control strategies include: (a) using physical barriers (such
as enclosures or guards) or door locks to reduce employee
exposure to the hazard; (b) metal detectors; (c) panic buttons,
(d) better or additional lighting; and (e) more accessible exits
(where appropriate). The measures taken should be sitespecific and based on the hazards identified in the worksite
analysis appropriate to the specific therapeutic setting. For
example, closed circuit videos and bulletproof glass may be
appropriate in a hospital or other institutional setting, but
not in a community care facility. Similarly, it should be noted
that services performed in the field (e.g., home health or
social services) often occur in private residences where some
engineering controls may not be possible or appropriate.

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
1 3

If new construction or modifications are planned for a facility,
assess any plans to eliminate or reduce security hazards.
The following are possible engineering controls that could apply
in different settings. Note that this is a list of suggested measures
whose appropriateness will depend on a number of factors.
Possible engineering controls for different healthcare and social
service settings

Hospital

Residential
Treatment

Non-residential
Treatment/
Service

Security/
xx Panic buttons or paging system at workstations or
silenced
personal alarm devices worn by employees
alarm systems

Community
Care

Field Workers
(Home Healthcare,
Social Service)

xx Paging system
xx GPS tracking7
xx Cell phones

xx Security/silenced alarm systems should be regularly maintained and managers and staff
should fully understand the range and limitations of the system.
Exit routes

xx Where possible, rooms should
have two exits
xx Provide employee ‘safe room’
for emergencies
xx Arrange furniture so workers
have a clear exit route

xx Where possible, xx Managers and workers should
counseling
assess homes for exit routes
rooms should
have two exits
xx Arrange
furniture so
workers have a
clear exit route

xx Workers should be familiar with a site and identify the different exit routes available.
Metal
detectors –
hand‑held or
installed

xx Employers and workers will have to determine the appropriate balance of creating the
suitable atmosphere for services being provided and the types of barriers put in place.
xx Metal detectors should be regularly maintained and assessed for effectiveness in
reducing the weapons brought into a facility.
xx Staff should be appropriately assigned, and trained to use the equipment and remove
weapons.

Monitoring
systems
& natural
surveillance

xx Closed-circuit video – inside
and outside
xx Curved mirrors
xx Proper placement of nurses’
stations to allow visual
scanning of areas
xx Glass panels in doors/walls for
better monitoring

xx Closed-circuit
video – inside
and outside
xx Curved mirrors
xx Glass panels in
doors for better
monitoring

xx Employers and workers will have to determine the appropriate balance of creating the
suitable atmosphere for services being provided and the types of barriers put in place.
xx Staff should know if video monitoring is in use or not and whether someone is always
monitoring the video or not.

7 

Employers and workers should determine the most effective method for ensuring the
safety of workers without negatively impacting working conditions.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
1 4

Hospital
Barrier
protection

Residential
Treatment

Non-residential
Treatment/
Service

Community
Care

Field Workers
(Home Healthcare,
Social Service)

xx Enclosed
xx Deep
xx Deep counters
receptionist
counters in
xx Provide lockable
desk with
offices
(or keyless
bulletproof
xx Provide
door systems)
glass
lockable (or
and secure
xx Deep
keyless door
bathrooms for
counters
systems)
staff members
at nurses’
and secure
(with locks on
stations
bathrooms
the inside) —
for staff
separated from
xx Lock doors
members
patient/client
to staff
(with locks on and visitor
counseling
facilities
and treatment the inside) —
separated
rooms
from patient/
xx Provide
client and
lockable (or
visitor
keyless door
facilities
systems)
xx Lock all
and secure
unused
bathrooms
doors to limit
for staff
access, in
members
(with locks on accord with
local fire
the inside) —
codes
separated
from patient/
client and
visitor
facilities
xx Lock all
unused
doors to limit
access, in
accord with
local fire
codes
xx Employers and workers will have to determine the appropriate balance of creating the
suitable atmosphere for the services being provided and the types of barriers put in place.

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
1 5

Hospital
Patient/client
areas

Residential
Treatment

Non-residential
Treatment/
Service

xx Establish
xx Establish
xx Provide
areas for
areas for
comfortable
patients/
patients/
waiting areas to
clients to
clients to
reduce stress
de‑escalate
de‑escalate
xx Provide
xx Provide
comfortable
comfortable
waiting areas
waiting areas
to reduce
to reduce
stress
stress
xx Divide
xx Assess staff
waiting areas
rotations
to limit the
in facilities
spreading
where clients
of agitation
become
among
agitated by
clients/
unfamiliar
visitors
staff

Community
Care
xx Establish
areas for
patients/
clients to
de‑escalate

Field Workers
(Home Healthcare,
Social Service)
xx Establish areas
for patients/
clients to
de‑escalate

xx Employers and workers will have to determine the appropriate balance of creating the
suitable atmosphere for the services being provided and the types of barriers put in place.
Furniture,
materials &
maintenance

xx Secure furniture and other items that could be used xx When feasible, xx Ensure carrying
as weapons
secure
equipment
xx Replace open hinges on doors with continuous
furniture or
for medical
hinges to reduce pinching hazards
other items
equipment,
xx Ensure cabinets and syringe drawers have working
that could
medicines and
locks
be used as
valuables have
xx Pad or replace sharp edged objects (such as metal
weapons
working locks
table frames)
xx Ensure
xx Consider changing or adding materials to reduce
cabinets
noise in certain areas
and syringe
xx Recess any hand rails, drinking fountains and any
drawers have
other protrusions
working locks
xx Smooth down or cover any sharp surfaces
xx Pad or replace
sharp edged
objects (such
as metal table
frames)
xx Ensure
carrying
equipment
for medical
equipment,
medicines and
valuables have
working locks
xx Employers and workers will have to establish a balance between creating the appropriate
atmosphere for the services being provided and securing furniture.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
1 6

Hospital
Lighting

Residential
Treatment

Non-residential
Treatment/
Service

xx Install bright, effective lighting—both indoors
and outdoors on the grounds, in parking areas
and walkways

Community
Care

Field Workers
(Home Healthcare,
Social Service)

xx Ensure
xx Work with
lighting is
client to ensure
adequate
lighting is
in both the
adequate in both
indoor and
the indoor and
outdoor areas
outdoor areas

xx Ensure burned out lights are replaced immediately.
xx While lighting should be effective it should not be harsh or cause undue glare.
Travel
vehicles

xx Ensure vehicles are properly
maintained
xx Where appropriate, consider
physical barrier between driver
and patients

xx Ensure vehicles are properly
maintained

Administrative and work practice controls
Administrative and work practice controls are appropriate
when engineering controls are not feasible or not completely
protective. These controls affect the way staff perform jobs or
tasks. Changes in work practices and administrative procedures
can help prevent violent incidents. As with engineering
controls, the practices chosen to abate workplace violence
should be appropriate to the type of site and in response to
hazards identified.
In addition to the specific measures listed below, training for
administrative and treatment staff should include therapeutic
procedures that are sensitive to the cause and stimulus of
violence. For example, research has shown that Trauma Informed
Care is a treatment technique that has been successfully
instituted in inpatient psychiatric units as a way to reduce
patient violence, and the need for seclusion and restraint. As
explained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration, trauma-informed services are based on an
understanding of the vulnerabilities or triggers of trauma for
survivors and can be more supportive than traditional service
delivery approaches, thus avoiding re-traumatization.8

Referenced on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s website
on February 25, 2013 (www.samhsa.gov/nctic).

8

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
1 7

The following are possible administrative controls that could
apply in different settings.
Possible administrative and work practice controls for different
healthcare and social service settings

Hospital
Workplace
violence
response
policy
Tracking
workers 9

Residential
Treatment

Non-residential
Treatment/Service

Community
Care

Field Workers
(Home Healthcare,
Social Service)

xx Clearly state to patients, clients, visitors and workers that violence is not permitted and
will not be tolerated.
xx Such a policy makes it clear to workers that assaults are not considered part of the job or
acceptable behavior.
Traveling
workers
should:
xx have specific
log-in and
log-out
procedures
xx be required
to contact
the office
after each
visit and
managers
should have
procedures
to follow-up
if workers
fail to do so

Workers should:
xx have specific log-in and log-out
procedures
xx be required to contact the office
after each visit and managers
should have procedures to followup if workers fail to do so
xx be given discretion as to whether
or not they begin or continue a
visit if they feel threatened or
unsafe

xx Log-in/log-out procedures should include:
xx the name and address of client visited;
xx the scheduled time and duration of visit;
xx a contact number;
xx a code word used to inform someone of an incident/threat;
xx worker’s vehicle description and license plate number;
xx details of any travel plans with client;
xx contacting office/supervisor with any changes.
Tracking
xx Supervise the movement of
xx Update staff in
clients with a
patients throughout the facility
shift report about
known history xx Update staff in shift report
violent history or
of violence
about violent history or incident incident

9 

xx Report all violent incidents to
employer

Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Task Force on Staff and Client Safety. (2011). Report
of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Task Force on Staff and Client Safety.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
1 8

Hospital

Residential
Treatment

Non-residential
Treatment/Service

Community
Care

Field Workers
(Home Healthcare,
Social Service)

xx Determine the behavioral history of new and transferred patients and clients to learn
about any past violent or assaultive behaviors.
xx Identify any event triggers for clients, such as certain dates or visitors.
xx Identify the type of violence including severity, pattern and intended purpose.
xx Information gained should be used to formulate individualized plans for early
identification and prevention of future violence.
xx Establish a system—such as chart tags, log books or verbal census reports—to identify
patients and clients with a history of violence and identify triggers and the best responses
and means of de-escalation.
xx Ensure workers know and follow procedures for updates to patients’ and clients’ behavior.
xx Ensure patient and client confidentiality is maintained.
xx Update as needed.
xx If stalking is suspected, consider varying check-in and check-out times for affected
workers and plan different travel routes for those workers.
Working
alone or in
secure areas

xx Treat and interview
aggressive or agitated clients
in relatively open areas that
still maintain privacy and
confidentiality
xx Ensure workers are not alone
when performing intimate
physical examinations of
patients
xx Advise staff to exercise
extra care in elevators and
stairwells
xx Provide staff members with
security escorts to parking
areas during evening/ late
hours— Ensure these areas
are well lit and highly visible

xx Advise staff to
exercise extra
care in elevators,
stairwells
xx Provide staff
members with
security escorts
to parking areas
during evening/
late hours.
Ensure these
areas are well lit
and highly visible

xx Ensure
xx Advise staff to
workers have
exercise extra
means of
care in unfamiliar
communicaresidences
tion—either
xx Workers
cell phones of
should be given
panic buttons
discretion to
xx Develop
receive backup
policy to
assistance by
determine
another worker or
when a
law enforcement
buddy system
officer
should be
xx Workers should
implemented
be given discretion as to whether
or not they begin
or continue a
visit if they feel
threatened or
unsafe
xx Ensure workers
have means of
communication—either cell
phones or panic
buttons

xx Limit workers from working alone in emergency areas or walk-in clinics, particularly at
night or when assistance is unavailable.
xx Establish policies and procedures for secured areas and emergency evacuations.
xx Use the “buddy system,” especially when personal safety may be threatened.
Reporting

xx Require workers to report all assaults or threats to a supervisor or manager (for example,
through a confidential interview). Keep logbooks and reports of such incidents to help
determine any necessary actions to prevent recurrences.
xx Establish a liaison with local police, service providers who can assist (e.g., counselors)
and state prosecutors. When needed, give police physical layouts of facilities to expedite
investigations.

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
1 9

Hospital

Residential
Treatment

Non-residential
Treatment/Service

Community
Care

Field Workers
(Home Healthcare,
Social Service)

Entry
procedures

xx Provide
xx Institute
xx Provide
xx Ensure
xx Ensure workers
responsive,
sign-in
responsive, timely
workers
determine how
timely
procedures
information to
determine
best to enter
information
with passes
those waiting;
how best to
clients’ homes
to those
for visitors
adopt measures
enter facilities
waiting;
xx Enforce
to reduce waiting
adopt
visitor
times
measures
hours and
to reduce
procedures
waiting times xx Establish
xx Institute
a list of
sign-in
“restricted
procedures
visitors” for
and visitor
patients with
passes
a history of
xx Enforce
violence or
visitor
gang activity;
hours and
make copies
procedures
available
for being in
at security
the hospital
checkpoints,
xx Have a
nurses’
“restricted
stations and
visitors” list
visitor sign-in
for patients
areas
with a history
of violence/
gang activity;
make copies
available
to security,
nurses, and
sign-in clerk

Incident
response/
high risk
activities

xx Use properly trained security
officers and counselors
to respond to aggressive
behavior; follow written
security procedures
xx Ensure that adequate and
qualified staff members
are available at all times,
especially during highrisk times such as patient
transfers, emergency
responses, mealtimes and
at night
xx Ensure that adequate and
qualified staff members are
available to disarm and deescalate patients if necessary
xx Assess changing client
routines and activities to
reduce or eliminate the
possibility of violent outbursts

xx Use properly
trained security
officers and
counselors
to respond to
aggressive
behavior; follow
written security
procedures

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
2 0

xx Ensure
assistance if
children will be
removed from
the home

Hospital

Residential
Treatment

Non-residential
Treatment/Service

Community
Care

Field Workers
(Home Healthcare,
Social Service)

xx Advise workers of company procedures for requesting police assistance or filing charges
when assaulted—and assist them in doing so if necessary.
xx Provide management support during emergencies. Respond promptly to all complaints.
xx Ensure that adequately trained staff members and counselors are available to de-escalate
a situation and counsel patients.
xx Prepare contingency plans to treat clients who are “acting out” or making verbal or
physical attacks or threats.
xx Emergency action plans should be developed to ensure that workers know how to call for
help or medical assistance.
Employee
uniforms/
dress

xx Provide staff with identification badges, preferably without last names, to readily verify
employment.
xx Discourage workers from wearing necklaces or chains to help prevent possible
strangulation in confrontational situations.
xx Discourage workers from wearing expensive jewelry or carrying large sums of money.
xx Discourage workers from carrying keys or other items that could be used as weapons.
xx Encourage the use of head netting/cap so hair cannot be grabbed and used to pull or shove
workers.

Facility
& work
procedures

xx Survey facility periodically to xx Survey facility
remove tools or possessions
periodically to
left by visitors or staff that
remove tools
could be used inappropriately
or possessions
by patients
left by visitors
xx Survey facilities regularly to
or staff that
ensure doors that should be
could be used
locked are locked—smoking
inappropriately
policies should not allow these by patients
doors to be propped open
xx Keep desks
xx Keep desks and work areas
and work areas
free of items, including extra
free of items,
pens and pencils, glass photo
including extra
frames, etc.
pens and pencils,
glass photo
frames, etc.

xx Survey
xx Have clear
facility
contracts on
periodically
how home
to remove
visits will be
tools or
conducted, the
possessions
presence of
left by visitors others in the
or staff that
home during
could be used
visits and
inapprothe refusal to
priately by
provide services
patients
in clearly
xx Establish
hazardous
daily work
situations
plans to keep xx Establish
a designated
daily work
contact
plans to keep
person
a designated
informed
contact person
about
informed about
employees’
employees’
whereabouts
whereabouts
throughout
throughout the
the workday;
workday; have a
have a
contact person
contact
follow up if an
person
employee does
follow up if
not report in as
an employee
expected
does not
report in as
expected

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
2 1

Hospital

Residential
Treatment

Non-residential
Treatment/Service

Transportation xx Develop safety procedures
procedures
that specifically address the
transport of patients.
xx Ensure that workers
transporting patients have an
effective and reliable means
of communicating with their
home office

Community
Care

Field Workers
(Home Healthcare,
Social Service)

xx Develop safety procedures that
specifically address the transport
of patients.
xx Ensure that workers transporting
patients have an effective and
reliable means of communicating
with their home office

Post-incident procedures and services
Post-incident response and evaluation are important
components to an effective violence prevention program.
Investigating incidents of workplace violence thoroughly will
provide a roadmap to avoiding fatalities and injuries associated
with future incidents. The purpose of the investigation should
be to identify the “root cause” of the incident. Root causes, if
not corrected, will inevitably recreate the conditions for another
incident to occur.
When an incident occurs, the immediate first steps are to
provide first aid and emergency care for the injured worker(s)
and to take any measures necessary to prevent others from
being injured. All workplace violence programs should provide
comprehensive treatment for workers who are victimized
personally or may be traumatized by witnessing a workplace
violence incident. Injured staff should receive prompt treatment
and psychological evaluation whenever an assault takes place,
regardless of its severity—free of charge. Also, injured workers
should be provided transportation to medical care if not
available on site.
Victims of workplace violence could suffer a variety of
consequences in addition to their actual physical injuries. These
may include:
■■
■■
■■
■■
■■

Short- and long-term psychological trauma;
Fear of returning to work;
Changes in relationships with coworkers and family;
Feelings of incompetence, guilt, powerlessness; and
Fear of criticism by supervisors or managers.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
2 2

Consequently, a strong follow-up program for these workers will
not only help them address these problems but also help prepare
them to confront or prevent future incidents of violence.
Several types of assistance can be incorporated into the postincident response. For example, trauma-crisis counseling,
critical-incident stress debriefing or employee assistance
programs may be provided to assist victims. As explained by the
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,
trauma-informed services are based on an understanding of
the vulnerabilities or triggers of trauma for survivors and can be
more supportive than traditional service delivery approaches,
thus avoiding re-traumatization.10 Whether the support is traumainformed or not, certified employee assistance professionals,
psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical nurse specialists or social
workers should provide this counseling. Alternatively, the
employer may refer staff victims to an outside specialist. In
addition, the employer may establish an employee counseling
service, peer counseling, or support groups.
Counselors should be well trained and have a good
understanding of the issues and consequences of assaults and
other aggressive, violent behavior. Appropriate and promptly
rendered post-incident debriefings and counseling reduce acute
psychological trauma and general stress levels among victims
and witnesses. In addition, this type of counseling educates
staff about workplace violence and positively influences
workplace and organizational cultural norms to reduce trauma
associated with future incidents.

Investigation of Incidents
Once these immediate needs are taken care of, the investigation
should begin promptly. The basic steps in conducting incident
investigations are:
1. Report as required. Determine who needs to be notified,
both within the organization and outside (e.g., authorities),
when there is an incident. Understand what types of
10

Referenced on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s website
on February 25, 2013 (www.samhsa.gov/nctic).
Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
2 3

incidents must be reported, and what information needs
to be included. If the incident involves hazardous materials
additional reporting requirements may apply.
2. Involve workers in the incident investigation. The employees
who work most closely in the area where the event occurred
may have special insight into the causes and solutions.
3. Identify Root Causes: Identify the root causes of the
incident. Don’t stop an investigation at “worker error” or
“unpredictable event.” Ask “why” the patient or client acted,
“why” the worker responded in a certain way, etc.
4. Collect and review other information.
Depending on the nature of the
incident, records related to training,
maintenance, inspections, audits,
and past incident reports may be
relevant to review.

Identify the root causes
of the incident. Don’t
stop an investigation
at “worker error” or
“unpredictable event.”
Ask “why” the patient
or client acted, “why”
the worker responded
in a certain way, etc.

5. Investigate Near Misses. In addition
to investigating all incidents
resulting in a fatality, injury or
illness, any near miss (a situation
that could potentially have resulted
in death, injury, or illness) should
be promptly investigated as well. Near misses are caused by
the same conditions that produce more serious outcomes,
and signal that some hazards are not being adequately
controlled, or that previously unidentified hazards exist.

4. Safety and Health Training
Education and training are key elements of a workplace violence
protection program, and help ensure that all staff members are
aware of potential hazards and how to protect themselves and
their coworkers through established policies and procedures. Such
training can be part of a broader type of instruction that includes
protecting patients and clients (such as training on de-escalation
techniques). However, employers should ensure that worker safety
is a separate component that is thoroughly addressed.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
2 4

Training for all workers
Training can: (1) help raise the overall safety and health
knowledge across the workforce, (2) provide employees with
the tools needed to identify workplace safety and security
hazards, and (3) address potential problems before they arise
and ultimately reduce the likelihood of workers being assaulted.
The training program should involve all workers, including
contract workers, supervisors, and managers. Workers who
may face safety and security hazards should receive formal
instruction on any specific or potential hazards associated
with the unit or job and the facility. Such training may include
information on the types of injuries or problems identified in
the facility and the methods to control the specific hazards. It
may also include instructions to limit physical interventions in
workplace altercations whenever possible.
Every worker should understand the concept of “universal
precautions for violence”— that is, that violence should be
expected but can be avoided or mitigated through preparation.
In addition, workers should understand the importance of a
culture of respect, dignity, and active mutual engagement in
preventing workplace violence.
New and reassigned workers should receive an initial
orientation before being assigned their job duties. All workers
should receive required training annually. In high-risk settings
and institutions, refresher training may be needed more
frequently, perhaps monthly or quarterly, to effectively reach
and inform all workers. Visiting staff, such as physicians,
should receive the same training as permanent staff and
contract workers. Qualified trainers should instruct at the
comprehension level appropriate for the staff. Effective training
programs should involve role-playing, simulations and drills.

Training topics
Training topics may include management of assaultive
behavior, professional/police assault-response training, or
personal safety training on how to prevent and avoid assaults.

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
2 5

A combination of training programs may be used, depending
on the severity of the risk.
In general, training should cover the policies and procedures for a
facility as well as de-escalation and self-defense techniques. Both
de-escalation and self-defense training should include a handson component. The following provides a list of possible topics:
■■

The workplace violence prevention policy;

■■

Risk factors that cause or contribute to assaults;

■■

Policies and procedures for documenting patients’ or clients’
change in behavior;

■■

The location, operation, and coverage of safety devices such
as alarm systems, along with the required maintenance
schedules and procedures;

■■

Early recognition of escalating behavior or recognition of
warning signs or situations that may lead to assaults;

■■

Ways to recognize, prevent or diffuse volatile situations or
aggressive behavior, manage anger and appropriately use
medications;

■■

Ways to deal with hostile people other than patients and
clients, such as relatives and visitors;

■■

Proper use of safe rooms—areas where staff can find shelter
from a violent incident;

■■

A standard response action plan for violent situations,
including the availability of assistance, response to alarm
systems and communication procedures;

■■

Self-defense procedures where appropriate;

■■

Progressive behavior control methods and when and how to
apply restraints properly and safety when necessary;

■■

Ways to protect oneself and coworkers, including use of the
“buddy system“;

■■

Policies and procedures for reporting and recordkeeping;

■■

Policies and procedures for obtaining medical care, traumainformed care, counseling, workers‘ compensation or legal
assistance after a violent episode or injury.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
2 6

Training for supervisors and managers
Supervisors and managers must be trained to recognize highrisk situations, so they can ensure that workers are not placed
in assignments that compromise their safety. Such training
should include encouraging workers
to report incidents and to seek the
Supervisors and
appropriate care after experiencing
managers must be
a violent incident.

trained to recognize

Supervisors and managers should
high-risk situations, so
learn how to reduce safety hazards
they can ensure that
and ensure that workers receive
workers are not placed
appropriate training. Following
in assignments that
training, supervisors and managers
compromise their safety.
should be able to recognize a
potentially hazardous situation
and make any necessary changes in
the physical plant, patient care treatment program and staffing
policy, and procedures to reduce or eliminate the hazards.

Training for security personnel
Security personnel need specific training from the hospital
or clinic, including the psychological components of handling
aggressive and abusive clients, and ways to handle aggression
and defuse hostile situations.

Evaluation of training
The training program should also include an evaluation. At
least annually, the team or coordinator responsible for the
program should review its content, methods and the frequency
of training. Program evaluation may involve supervisor and
employee interviews, testing, observing and reviewing reports
of behavior of individuals in threatening situations.

5. Recordkeeping and Program Evaluation
Recordkeeping and evaluation of the violence prevention
program are necessary to determine its overall effectiveness
and identify any deficiencies or changes that should be made.
Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
2 7

Accurate records of injuries, illnesses, incidents, assaults,
hazards, corrective actions, patient histories and training can
help employers determine the severity of the problem; identify
any developing trends or patterns in particular locations, jobs or
departments; evaluate methods of hazard control; identify training
needs and develop solutions for an effective program. Records
can be especially useful to large organizations and for members
of a trade association that “pool” data. Key records include:
■■

OSHA Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA
Form 300). Covered employers are required to prepare
and maintain records of serious occupational injuries and
illnesses, using the OSHA 300 Log. As of January 2015, all
employers must report: (1) all work-related fatalities within
8 hours and (2) all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, all
amputations and all losses of an eye within 24 hours. Injuries
caused by assaults must be entered on the log if they meet
the recording criteria.11

■■

Medical reports of work injury, workers’ compensation reports
and supervisors’ reports for each recorded assault. These
records should describe the type of assault, such as an
unprovoked sudden attack or patient-to-patient altercation,
who was assaulted, and all other circumstances of the incident.
The records should include a description of the environment or
location, lost work time that resulted and the nature of injuries
sustained. These medical records are confidential documents
and should be kept in a locked location under the direct
responsibility of a healthcare professional.

■■

Records of incidents of abuse, reports conducted by security
personnel, verbal attacks or aggressive behavior that may
be threatening, such as pushing or shouting and acts of
aggression toward other clients. This may be kept as part
of an assaultive incident report. Ensure that the affected
department evaluates these records routinely.

■■

Information on patients with a history of past violence, drug
abuse or criminal activity recorded on the patient’s chart.
Anyone who cares for a potentially aggressive, abusive or

11

29 CFR Part 1904, revised 2014.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
2 8

violent client should be aware of the person’s background and
history, including triggers and de-escalation responses. Log the
admission of violent patients to help determine potential risks.
Log violent events on patients’ charts and flagged charts.12
■■

Documentation of minutes of safety meetings, records
of hazard analyses and corrective actions recommended
and taken.

■■

Records of all training programs, attendees, and
qualifications of trainers.

Elements of a program evaluation
As part of their overall program, employers should evaluate their
safety and security measures. Top management should review
the program regularly and, with each incident, to evaluate its
success. Responsible parties (including managers, supervisors
and employees) should reevaluate policies and procedures on a
regular basis to identify deficiencies and take corrective action.
Management should share workplace violence prevention
evaluation reports with all workers. Any changes in the
program should be discussed at regular meetings of the safety
committee, union representatives or other employee groups.
All reports should protect worker and patient confidentiality
either by presenting only aggregate data or by removing
personal identifiers if individual data are used.
Processes involved in an evaluation include:
■■

Establishing a uniform violence reporting system and
regular review of reports;

■■

Reviewing reports and minutes from staff meetings on
safety and security issues;

■■

Analyzing trends and rates in illnesses, injuries or fatalities
caused by violence relative to initial or “baseline” rates;

■■

Measuring improvement based on lowering the frequency
and severity of workplace violence;

12

Proper patient confidentiality must be maintained.
Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
2 9

■■

Keeping up-to-date records of administrative and work
practice changes to prevent workplace violence to evaluate
how well they work;

■■

Surveying workers before and after making job or worksite
changes or installing security measures or new systems to
determine their effectiveness;

■■

Tracking recommendations through to completion;

■■

Keeping abreast of new strategies available to prevent and
respond to violence in the healthcare and social service
fields as they develop;

■■

Surveying workers periodically to learn if they experience
hostile situations in performing their jobs;

■■

Complying with OSHA and state requirements for recording
and reporting injuries, illnesses, and fatalities; and

■■

Requesting periodic law enforcement or outside consultant
review of the worksite for recommendations on improving
worker safety.

Workplace Violence Program Checklists
These checklists can help you or your workplace violence/crime
prevention committee evaluate the workplace and job tasks to
identify situations that may place workers at risk of assault. It
is not designed for a specific industry or occupation, and may
be used for any workplace. Adapt the checklist to fit your own
needs. It is very comprehensive and not every question will
apply to your workplace—if the question does not apply, either
delete or write “N/A” in the NOTES column. Add any other
questions that may be relevant to your worksite.
1. RISK FACTORS FOR WORKPLACE VIOLENCE
Cal/OSHA and NIOSH have identified the following risk factors
that may contribute to violence in the workplace. If you have
one or more of these risk factors in your workplace, there may
be a potential for violence.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
3 0

YES

NO

Notes/Follow-up Action

Do employees have contact with the public?
Do they exchange money with the public?
Do they work alone?
Do they work late at night or during early
morning hours?
Is the workplace often understaffed?
Is the workplace located in an area with a high
crime rate?
Do employees enter areas with a high crime rate?
Do they have a mobile workplace (patrol
vehicle, work van, etc.)?
Do they deliver passengers or goods?
Do employees perform jobs that might put them
in conflict with others?
Do they ever perform duties that could upset
people (deny benefits, confiscate property,
terminate child custody, etc.)?
Do they deal with people known or suspected of
having a history of violence?
Do any employees or supervisors have a history
of assault, verbal abuse, harassment, or other
threatening behavior?
Other risk factors – please describe:

2. INSPECTING WORK AREAS
■■

Who is responsible for building security?

■■

Are workers told or can they identify who is responsible for
security? Yes No

You or your workplace violence/crime prevention committee
should now begin a “walkaround” inspection to identify
potential security hazards. This inspection can tell you which
hazards are already well controlled, and what control measures
need to be added. Not all of the following questions may be
answered through simple observation. You may also need to
talk to workers or investigate in other ways.

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
3 1

All
Areas

Some
Areas

Few
Areas

No
Areas

Are nametags or ID cards
required for employees (omitting
personal information such as last
name and home address)?
Are workers notified of past
violent acts in the workplace?
Are trained security and
counseling personnel
accessible to workers in a
timely manner?
Do security and counseling
personnel have sufficient
authority to take all necessary
action to ensure worker safety?
Is there an established liaison
with state police and/or local
police and counseling agencies?
Are bullet-resistant windows or
similar barriers used when money
is exchanged with the public?
Are areas where money
is exchanged visible to
others who could help in an
emergency? (For example, can
you see cash register areas
from outside?)
Is a limited amount of cash
kept on hand, with appropriate
signs posted?
Could someone hear a worker
who calls for help?
Can employees observe patients
or clients in waiting areas?
Do areas used for patient
or client interviews allow
co-workers to observe any
problems?
Are waiting areas and work
areas free of objects that could
be used as weapons?
Are chairs and furniture secured
to prevent their use as weapons?
Is furniture in waiting areas and
work areas arranged to prevent
entrapment of workers?
Are patient or client waiting
areas designed to maximize
comfort and minimize stress?

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
3 2

NOTES/FOLLOW-UP
ACTION

All
Areas

Some
Areas

Few
Areas

No
Areas

NOTES/FOLLOW-UP
ACTION

Are patients or clients in
waiting areas clearly informed
how to use the department’s
services so they will not
become frustrated?
Are waiting times for patient
or client services kept short to
prevent frustration?
Are private, locked restrooms
available for employees?
Is there a secure place for
workers to store personal
belongings?

3. INSPECTING EXTERIOR BUILDING AREAS
Yes

No

NOTES/FOLLOW-UP ACTION

Do workers feel safe walking to and from
the workplace?
Are the entrances to the building clearly visible
from the street?
Is the area surrounding the building free of
bushes or other hiding places?
Is lighting bright and effective in outside areas?
Are security personnel provided outside
the building?
Is video surveillance provided outside
the building?
Are remote areas secured during off shifts?
Is a buddy escort system required to remote
areas during off shifts?
Are all exterior walkways visible to
security personnel?

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
3 3

4. INSPECTING PARKING AREAS
Yes

No

Should
Add

Doesn’t
Apply

NOTES/FOLLOW-UP ACTION

Is there a nearby parking lot reserved for
employees only?
Is the parking lot attended or
otherwise secured?
Is the parking lot free of blind spots and is
landscaping trimmed back to prevent hiding places?
Is there enough lighting to see clearly in the
parking lot and when walking to the building?
Are security escorts available to employees
walking to and from the parking lot?

5. SECURITY MEASURES
Does the workplace have:

In
Place

NOTES/FOLLOW-UP ACTION

Physical barriers (plexiglass
partitions, bullet-resistant customer
window, etc.)?
Security cameras or closed-circuit
TV in high-risk areas?
Panic buttons?
Alarm systems?
Metal detectors?
Security screening device?
Door locks?
Internal telephone system to contact
emergency assistance?
Telephones with an outside line
programmed for 911?
Two-way radios, pagers, or cellular
telephones?
Security mirrors (e.g., convex mirrors)?
Secured entry (e.g., “buzzers”)?
Personal alarm devices?
“Drop safes” to limit the amount of
cash on hand?
Broken windows repaired promptly?
Security systems, locks, etc. tested
on a regular basis and repaired
promptly when necessary?

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
3 4

6. COMMENTS

Checklist completed by:

Date:

Department/Location:
Phone Number:

Workplace Violence Prevention Program Assessment Checklist
Use this checklist as part of a regular safety and health
inspection or audit to be conducted by the Health and Safety,
Crime/Workplace Violence Prevention Coordinator, or joint
labor/management committee. If a question does not apply to
the workplace, then write “N/A” (not applicable) in the notes
column. Add any other questions that may be appropriate.
Yes

No

NOTES

STAFFING
Is there someone responsible for building security?
Who is it?
Are workers told who is responsible for security?
Is adequate and trained staffing available
to protect workers who are in potentially
dangerous situations?
Are there trained security personnel accessible
to workers in a timely manner?
Do security personnel have sufficient authority to
take all necessary action to ensure worker safety?
Are security personnel provided outside
the building?
Is the parking lot attended or otherwise secure?
Are security escorts available to walk
employees to and from the parking lot?

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
3 5

Yes

No

TRAINING
Are workers trained in the emergency response
plan (for example, escape routes, notifying the
proper authorities)?
Are workers trained to report violent incidents
or threats?
Are workers trained in how to handle difficult
clients or patients?
Are workers trained in ways to prevent or
defuse potentially violent situations?
Are workers trained in personal safety and
self-defense?
FACILITY DESIGN
Are there enough exits and adequate routes
of escape?
Can exit doors be opened only from the inside to
prevent unauthorized entry?
Is the lighting adequate to see clearly in
indoor areas?
Are there employee-only work areas that are
separate from public areas?
Is access to work areas only through a
reception area?
Are reception and work areas designed to
prevent unauthorized entry?
Could someone hear a worker call for help?
Can workers observe patients or clients in
waiting areas?
Do areas used for patient or client interviews
allow co-workers to observe any problems?
Are waiting and work areas free of objects that
could be used as weapons?
Are chairs and furniture secured to prevent
their use as weapons?
Is furniture in waiting and work areas arranged
to prevent workers from becoming trapped?
Are patient or client areas designed to maximize
comfort and minimize stress?
Is a secure place available for workers to store
their personal belongings?
Are private, locked restrooms available for staff?

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
3 6

NOTES

Yes

No

NOTES

SECURITY MEASURES –
Does the workplace have?
Physical barriers (Plexiglas partitions, elevated
counters to prevent people from jumping over
them, bullet-resistant customer windows, etc.)?
Security cameras or closed-circuit TV in highrisk areas?
Panic buttons – (portable or fixed)
Alarm systems?
Metal detectors?
X-ray machines?
Door locks?
Internal phone system to activate emergency
assistance?
Phones with an outside line programmed to
call 911?
Security mirrors (convex mirrors)?
Secured entry (buzzers)?
Personal alarm devices?
OUTSIDE THE FACILITY
Do workers feel safe walking to and from
the workplace?
Are the entrances to the building clearly visible
from the street?
Is the area surrounding the building free of
bushes or other hiding places?
Is video surveillance provided outside the building?
Is there enough lighting to see clearly outside
the building?
Are all exterior walkways visible to
security personnel?
Is there a nearby parking lot reserved for
employees only?
Is the parking lot free of bushes or other
hiding places?
Is there enough lighting to see clearly in the
parking lot and when walking to the building?
Have neighboring facilities and businesses
experienced violence or crime?

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
3 7

Yes

No

WORKPLACE PROCEDURES
Are employees given maps and clear directions
in order to navigate the areas where they will
be working?
Is public access to the building controlled?
Are floor plans posted showing building
entrances, exits, and location of security
personnel?
Are these floor plans visible only to staff and not
to outsiders?
Is other emergency information posted, such as
the telephone numbers?
Are special security measures taken to protect
people who work late at night (escorts, locked
entrances, etc.)?
Are visitors or clients escorted to offices for
appointments?
Are authorized visitors to the building required
to wear ID badges?
Are identification tags required for staff
(omitting personal information such as the
person’s last name and social security number)?
Are workers notified of past violent acts by
particular clients, patients, etc.?
Is there an established liaison with local police
and counseling agencies?
Are patients or clients in waiting areas clearly
informed how to use the department’s services
so they will not become frustrated?
Are waiting times for patient or client services
kept short to prevent frustration?
Are broken windows and locks repaired promptly?
Are security devices (locks, cameras, alarms,
etc.) tested on a regular basis and repaired
promptly when necessary?
FIELD WORK – Staffing:
Are escorts or “buddies” provided for people
who work in potentially dangerous situations?
Is assistance provided to workers in the field in
a timely manner when requested?
FIELD WORK – Training:
Are workers briefed about the area in which
they will be working (gang colors, neighborhood
culture, language, drug activity, etc.)?

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
3 8

NOTES

Yes

No

NOTES

Can workers effectively communicate with people
they meet in the field (same language, etc.)?
Are people who work in the field late at night
or early mornings advised about special
precautions to take?
FIELD WORK – Work Environment:
Is there enough lighting to see clearly in all
areas where workers must go?
Are there safe places for workers to eat, use
the restroom, store valuables, etc.?
Are there places where workers can go for
protection in an emergency?
Is safe parking readily available for employees
in the field?
FIELD WORK – Security Measures:
Are workers provided two-way radios, pagers,
or cellular phones?
Are workers provided with personal alarm
devices or portable panic buttons?
Are vehicle door and window locks controlled
by the driver?
Are vehicles equipped with physical barriers
(Plexiglas partitions, etc.)?
FIELD WORK – Work Procedures:
Are employees given maps and clear directions
for covering the areas where they will be working?
Are employees given alternative routes to use
in neighborhoods with a high crime rate?
Does a policy exist to allow employees to refuse
service to clients or customers (in the home,
etc.) in a hazardous situation?
Has a liaison with the police been established?
Do workers avoid carrying unnecessary items
that someone could use as weapon against them?
Does the employer provide a safe vehicle or
other transportation for use in the field?
Are vehicles used in the field routinely
inspected and kept in good working order?
Is there always someone who knows where
each employee is?
Are nametags required for workers in the field
(omitting personal information such as last
name and social security number)?
Are workers notified of past violent acts by
particular clients, patients, etc.?
Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
3 9

Yes

No

NOTES

FIELD WORK – Are special precautions taken
when workers:
Have to take something away from people
(remove children from the home)?
Have contact with people who behave violently?
Use vehicles or wear clothing marked with the
name of an organization that the public may
strongly dislike?
Perform duties inside people’s homes?
Have contact with dangerous animals (dogs, etc.)?

Adapted from the workplace violence prevention program
checklist, California Department of Human Resources, see www.
calhr.ca.gov/Documents/model-workplace-violence-and-bullyingprevention-program.pdf (last accessed November 25, 2014).

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Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
4 5

Workers’ Rights
Workers have the right to:
■■

Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.

■■

Receive information and training (in a language and
vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace
hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards
that apply to their workplace.

■■

Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.

■■

File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if
they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer
is not following OSHA’s rules. OSHA will keep all identities
confidential.

■■

Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation,
including reporting an injury or raising health and safety
concerns with their employer or OSHA. If a worker has been
retaliated against for using their rights, they must file a
complaint with OSHA as soon as possible, but no later than
30 days.

For more information, see OSHA’s Workers page.

OSHA Assistance, Services and Programs
OSHA has a great deal of information to assist employers in
complying with their responsibilities under OSHA law. Several
OSHA programs and services can help employers identify and
correct job hazards, as well as improve their injury and illness
prevention program.

Establishing an Injury and Illness
Prevention Program
The key to a safe and healthful work environment is a
comprehensive injury and illness prevention program.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
4 6

Injury and illness prevention programs are systems that can
substantially reduce the number and severity of workplace
injuries and illnesses, while reducing costs to employers.
Thousands of employers across the United States already
manage safety using injury and illness prevention programs, and
OSHA believes that all employers can and should do the same.
Thirty-four states have requirements or voluntary guidelines
for workplace injury and illness prevention programs. Most
successful injury and illness prevention programs are based
on a common set of key elements. These include management
leadership, worker participation, hazard identification, hazard
prevention and control, education and training, and program
evaluation and improvement. Visit OSHA’s Injury and Illness
Prevention Programs web page at www.osha.gov/dsg/topics/
safetyhealth for more information.

Compliance Assistance Specialists
OSHA has compliance assistance specialists throughout the
nation located in most OSHA offices. Compliance assistance
specialists can provide information to employers and workers
about OSHA standards, short educational programs on specific
hazards or OSHA rights and responsibilities, and information on
additional compliance assistance resources. For more details,
visit www.osha.gov/dcsp/compliance_assistance/cas.html or
call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) to contact your local OSHA office.

Free On-site Safety and Health Consultation
Services for Small Business
OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program offers free and
confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses
in all states across the country, with priority given to highhazard worksites. Each year, responding to requests from small
employers looking to create or improve their safety and health
management programs, OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program
conducts over 29,000 visits to small business worksites
covering over 1.5 million workers across the nation.

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
4 7

On-site consultation services are separate from enforcement
and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state
agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace
hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and
assist in establishing safety and health management programs.
For more information, to find the local On-site Consultation office
in your state, or to request a brochure on Consultation Services,
visit www.osha.gov/consultation, or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
Under the consultation program, certain exemplary employers
may request participation in OSHA’s Safety and Health
Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). Eligibility for
participation includes, but is not limited to, receiving a fullservice, comprehensive consultation visit, correcting all
identified hazards and developing an effective safety and
health management program. Worksites that receive SHARP
recognition are exempt from programmed inspections during
the period that the SHARP certification is valid.

Cooperative Programs
OSHA offers cooperative programs under which businesses,
labor groups and other organizations can work cooperatively
with OSHA. To find out more about any of the following
programs, visit www.osha.gov/cooperativeprograms.

Strategic Partnerships and Alliances
The OSHA Strategic Partnerships (OSP) provide the opportunity
for OSHA to partner with employers, workers, professional or
trade associations, labor organizations, and/or other interested
stakeholders. OSHA Partnerships are formalized through unique
agreements designed to encourage, assist, and recognize
partner efforts to eliminate serious hazards and achieve model
workplace safety and health practices. Through the Alliance
Program, OSHA works with groups committed to worker safety
and health to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses
by developing compliance assistance tools and resources to
share with workers and employers, and educate workers and
employers about their rights and responsibilities.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
4 8

Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP)
The VPP recognize employers and workers in private industry
and federal agencies who have implemented effective safety and
health management programs and maintain injury and illness rates
below the national average for their respective industries. In VPP,
management, labor, and OSHA work cooperatively and proactively
to prevent fatalities, injuries, and illnesses through a system
focused on: hazard prevention and control, worksite analysis,
training, and management commitment and worker involvement.

Occupational Safety and Health Training
The OSHA Training Institute in Arlington Heights, Illinois,
provides basic and advanced training and education in safety
and health for federal and state compliance officers, state
consultants, other federal agency personnel and private
sector employers, workers, and their representatives. In
addition, 27 OSHA Training Institute Education Centers at 42
locations throughout the United States deliver courses on
OSHA standards and occupational safety and health issues to
thousands of students a year.
For more information on training, contact the OSHA Directorate
of Training and Education, 2020 Arlington Heights Road, Arlington
Heights, IL 60005; call 1-847-297-4810; or visit www.osha.gov/otiec.

OSHA Educational Materials
OSHA has many types of educational materials in English,
Spanish, Vietnamese and other languages available in print or
online. These include:
■■

Brochures/booklets that cover a wide variety of job hazards
and other topics;

■■

Fact Sheets, which contain basic background information on
safety and health hazards;

■■

Guidance documents that provide detailed examinations of
specific safety and health issues;

■■

Online Safety and Health Topics pages;

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
4 9

■■

Posters;

■■

Small, laminated QuickCards™ that provide brief safety and
health information; and

■■

QuickTakes, OSHA’s free, twice-monthly online newsletter
with the latest news about OSHA initiatives and products
to assist employers and workers in finding and preventing
workplace hazards. To sign up for QuickTakes visit www.
osha.gov/quicktakes.

To view materials available online or for a listing of free
publications, visit www.osha.gov/publications. You can also call
1-800-321-OSHA (6742) to order publications.
OSHA’s web site also has a variety of eTools. These include utilities
such as expert advisors, electronic compliance assistance, videos
and other information for employers and workers. To learn more
about OSHA’s safety and health tools online, visit www.osha.gov.

NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Program
Getting Help with Health Hazards
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
(NIOSH) is a federal agency that conducts scientific and medical
research on workers’ safety and health. At no cost to employers
or workers, NIOSH can help identify health hazards and
recommend ways to reduce or eliminate those hazards in the
workplace through its Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program.
Workers, union representatives and employers can request a
NIOSH HHE. An HHE is often requested when there is a higher
than expected rate of a disease or injury in a group of workers.
These situations may be the result of an unknown cause, a new
hazard, or a mixture of sources. To request a NIOSH Health
Hazard Evaluation go to www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/request.html.
To find out more about the Health Hazard Evaluation Program:
■■

Call (513) 841-4382, or to talk to a staff member in Spanish,
call (513) 841-4439; or

■■

Send an email to HHERequestHelp@cdc.gov.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
5 0

OSHA Regional Offices
Region I
Boston Regional Office
(CT*, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT*)
JFK Federal Building, Room E340
Boston, MA 02203
(617) 565-9860 (617) 565-9827 Fax
Region II
New York Regional Office
(NJ*, NY*, PR*, VI*)
201 Varick Street, Room 670
New York, NY 10014
(212) 337-2378 (212) 337-2371 Fax
Region III
Philadelphia Regional Office
(DE, DC, MD*, PA, VA*, WV)
The Curtis Center
170 S. Independence Mall West
Suite 740 West
Philadelphia, PA 19106-3309
(215) 861-4900 (215) 861-4904 Fax
Region IV
Atlanta Regional Office
(AL, FL, GA, KY*, MS, NC*, SC*, TN*)
61 Forsyth Street, SW, Room 6T50
Atlanta, GA 30303
(678) 237-0400 (678) 237-0447 Fax
Region V
Chicago Regional Office
(IL*, IN*, MI*, MN*, OH, WI)
230 South Dearborn Street
Room 3244
Chicago, IL 60604
(312) 353-2220 (312) 353-7774 Fax

Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
5 1

Region VI
Dallas Regional Office
(AR, LA, NM*, OK, TX)
525 Griffin Street, Room 602
Dallas, TX 75202
(972) 850-4145 (972) 850-4149 Fax
(972) 850-4150 FSO Fax
Region VII
Kansas City Regional Office
(IA*, KS, MO, NE)
Two Pershing Square Building
2300 Main Street, Suite 1010
Kansas City, MO 64108-2416
(816) 283-8745 (816) 283-0547 Fax
Region VIII
Denver Regional Office
(CO, MT, ND, SD, UT*, WY*)
Cesar Chavez Memorial Building
1244 Speer Boulevard, Suite 551
Denver, CO 80204
(720) 264-6550 (720) 264-6585 Fax
Region IX
San Francisco Regional Office
(AZ*, CA*, HI*, NV*, and American Samoa,
Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands)
90 7th Street, Suite 18100
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 625-2547 (415) 625-2534 Fax
Region X
Seattle Regional Office
(AK*, ID, OR*, WA*)
300 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1280
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 757-6700 (206) 757-6705 Fax

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
5 2

* These states and territories operate their own OSHAapproved job safety and health plans and cover state and local
government employees as well as private sector employees.
The Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Virgin
Islands programs cover public employees only. (Private sector
workers in these states are covered by Federal OSHA). States
with approved programs must have standards that are identical
to, or at least as effective as, the Federal OSHA standards.
Note: To get contact information for OSHA area offices, OSHAapproved state plans and OSHA consultation projects, please visit
us online at www.osha.gov or call us at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

How to Contact OSHA
For questions or to get information or advice, to report an
emergency, report a fatality or catastrophe, order publications, sign
up for OSHA’s e-newsletter QuickTakes, or to file a confidential
complaint, contact your nearest OSHA office, visit www.osha.gov
or call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), TTY 1-877-889-5627.

For assistance, contact us.
We are OSHA. We can help.

U.S. Department of Labor

For more information:
Occupational
Safety and Health
Administration

www.osha.gov (800) 321-OSHA (6742)

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